Bruns Eco Village - Brunswick Heads

“Wisdom begins in wonder.”

Socrates

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Have some questions?

Below is a compilation of the various questions we have been asked about Bruns Eco Village. We hope this gives you a comprehensive overview of the proposed village. If you have any further questions please send them to askbev@brunsecovillage.com.au.


Bruns Eco Village Planning Process

Section 1: Explanation of terms

22. What is a planning proposal?

A planning proposal is essentially an application to ‘rezone’ a land site.

It is used and read by those who are responsible for deciding whether the proposal should proceed, as well as the general community.

The relevant planning authority (in this case Byron Shire Council) is responsible for the content of the planning proposal and the quality of the information provided in support of the proposal. Council needs to be satisfied the information is accurate, current and sufficient prior to forwarding to the state government for issuing a Gateway determination (explained below) and subsequently detailed enough for the purposes of consulting with agencies and the general community.

A Gateway determination, by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment specifies whether a planning proposal is to proceed and if so, in what circumstances. The purpose of the Gateway determination is to ensure there is sufficient justification early in the process to proceed with a planning proposal. The Minister for Planning or their delegates can issue a Gateway determination and specify the level of community consultation required and what additional processes and information is required based on the complexity of the proposal.

23. What's the difference between a Planning Proposal and an Expression of Interest (EOI)?

A Planning Proposal, as described above, is a document used in the Local Environmental Plan (LEP) amendment (‘rezoning’) process within NSW. Local Environmental Plans stipulate planning rules for local government areas using zoning and development controls, which provide a framework for the way land can be used.

An Expression of Interest (EOI) is the term Council used when it was seeking responses from landowners who were proposing various affordable housing concepts.

24. What is a Voluntary Planning Agreement?

A Voluntary Planning Agreement is an agreement made between a planning authority (i.e. the local government area Council or the Department of Planning and Environment) and a person or people who are developing a piece of land. The person or people developing the land agree to provide or fund public amenities, affordable housing, transport or other infrastructure of community benefit relevant to that land and its location.

These agreements are attached to the land, similar to conditions of development consent and therefore can be locked in and remain even if the land is sold to new owners.

25. What's the definition of Affordable Housing?

There are many definitions of affordable housing. Council has recognised that the existing affordable housing definitions and planning provisions are not satisfactorily addressing the housing crisis in the shire. A lot of commonwealth and state government provisions are focused on metropolitan situations.

It is for this reason that Council is asking for pilots projects of different models. New different approaches may use different definitions.

Bruns Eco Village has chosen to cap rents at 80% of market rates, which is more targeted than broad income measures. As market rates and inflation continue to rise, Bruns Eco Village rents are likely to sit at 50% of market rates within 20 years. Please view this video which explains how this can happen.

Section 2: Saddle Road Planning Proposal

26. Why have Saddle Road landholders submitted a Planning Proposal?

On June 22nd 2017 Byron Shire Council invited landowners within Byron Shire to present pilot projects for affordable housing under an affordable housing pilot project process.

Councillors voted to: “support further discussions with landowners ... and [the] progression of work necessary to establish the feasibility of ... sites ... for affordable housing [including] site ‘17’ Saddle Road land ... and where appropriate, invite lodgement of Planning Proposals to rezone the land for this purpose”. (Resolution 17-260)

In the follow up meeting from Resolution 17-260 Council staff invited a Planning Proposal to be lodged for Saddle Road in follow-up to Resolution 17-260. Subsequently 5 landholders opted to submit land to be part of the requested Planning Proposal, the Dalys being one of those landholders.

29. Where is the land being proposed?

The Bruns Eco Village site and surrounding lands are at the Brunswick Heads end of Saddle Road. Bruns Eco Village is not the land beside Uncle Tom's that has been subject to earthworks and removal of native vegetation.

30. Why is Bruns Eco Village being located specifically on 66 Saddle Road, Brunswick Heads and not in another location?

The Dalys who currently hold the land at 66 Saddle Road are the instigators of the Bruns Eco Village project and are driving and funding the project. Without the Dalys, the Bruns Eco Village concept would not exist or continue currently. The ecovillage project does not involve any other parcel of land on Saddle Road.

The Dalys are willing to sell the land to the Bruns Eco Village community (once rezoned to allow an ecovillage) at a reduced price. They are therefore shouldering much of the risk related to developing the future community. Offers like these are unique and it is unlikely another offer like this would be available elsewhere in the Shire.

The current Byron Draft Preliminary Residential Strategy (August 2016) identifies the Saddle Road area as a potential residential area for approximately 400 new homes. This comes after an extensive study of the whole Byron Shire that focused on suitable lands for residential development. Considerations in such a study include access to services and transport, flood risk, environmental sensitivity, ridgelines and landscape values, bushfire, soil type, erosion, agricultural value and other constraints. Saddle Road was one of only a handful of sites in the Shire that was found suitable for greenfield development based on the above considerations and the only site large enough for an ecovillage of this scale. (see diagram) No other rural land in the Shire is supported by Council for the scale of development necessary for an ecovillage.

The draft residential strategy determined that Saddle Road should provide some of its own services and education facilities. This aligns with the goals and plans of the Bruns Eco Village.

66 Saddle Road is of a size (over 100 acres) that can support the proposed scale of the ecovillage and can manage all its inputs and outputs.

In addition to this, the site is accessible due to its proximity to the national highway and allows for social enterprises, educational and economic opportunities that help ensure long term economic sustainability for the community. Its prime location between Brunswick Heads and Mullumbimby ensures that there will most likely be an oversubscription of applicants for residency and this will enable and support the proposed Alternative Ownership Model. The site has plentiful water sources and good soils for food production, both elements needed for the ecovillage.

31. Why is BEV working with other Saddle Road landowners in the Planning Proposal process?

As mentioned above Council invited landholders on Saddle Road to submit a planning proposal related to that area. Bruns Eco Village along with other Saddle Road landholders lodged a planning proposal together as part of the shared Saddle Road area.

Not only this however, Bruns Eco Village is collaborative by nature, and wants a productive relationship with her neighbours. They are multiple-generation locals with a deep attachment to the area, and who understand how dire the housing crisis in the Shire has become.

Bruns Eco Village sees this as an opportunity to create a broad vision for positive, community-appropriate development across the ridge, and influence the context within which Bruns Eco Village itself is developed.

Our aspiration in creating Bruns Eco Village is to produce a model of sustainable housing design that can be replicated and used in other housing projects. In fact we hope to one day support other landholders to do that.

With a well-planned staged release with clear conditions and Council in control, projects surrounding the Bruns Eco Village site would have the opportunity to follow and observe the Bruns Eco Village development and to replicate measures which have proved successful.

This collaboration is for the Planning Proposal phase only. A Development Application for Bruns Eco Village would be prepared independently.

32. Who are the other landowners in the Planning Proposal?

The other landholders are long-term local families who have lived in the locality over generations, not developers who have arrived recently. Two other applicants are making the offer to dedicate 20% of their land for affordable housing. They have made a considerably generous affordable housing offer in good faith responding to Council’s invitation to do so.

33. What happens if a mega-developer gets a hold of the BEV land?

The most common feedback we get is that ‘we love what Bruns Eco Village is about, but we don’t want to open the way for more speculative development’. Neither do we!

Bruns Eco Village has deliberately sought tight restrictions for the Bruns Eco Village site, such as requesting that the site cannot be subdivided into small lots. This would limit the land’s attractiveness to speculative developers.

Bruns Eco Village has always been willing to lock in such intentions through a Voluntary Planning Agreement (VPA). Such an agreement can include enforceable measures that ensure the development actually delivers what Council and the community want.

34. What about the Aboriginal cultural sites of significance on Saddle Ridge?

Any planning proposal such as Saddle Road requires an extensive array of issues to be investigated including indigenous and non-indigenous heritage.

Currently an extensive heritage assessment is underway following all of the nominated consultation processes including those with Registered Aboriginal Parties.

Section 3: The Planning Process

35. What process is the PP being assessed under?

This Planning Proposal is being assessed under Council’s affordable housing pilot project invitation, evolving out of Resolution 17-260 from the June 2017 Council meeting.

Normally residential land releases are only considered once council adopts a residential strategy. However in this case due to the affordable housing crisis council’s planning director made the following comments in her report prior to Council’s June 2017 meeting:

“In response to the issue of ‘land availability’, at the Councillor workshop held 11 May 2016, support was expressed for the identification of and progression of potential pilot sites ahead of the Residential Land Strategy to rezone land that could be used to achieve affordable/diverse housing outcomes for the Shire.

It is recommended that Council support progression of the preliminary work necessary to establish the feasibility of [identified] sites for this purpose including discussions with landowners. Progression of Planning Proposals to rezone the land for affordable / diverse housing could follow where appropriate.”

As a result of these ‘discussions with landowners’, Bruns Eco Village is offering 100% affordable and diverse housing for Byron Shire.

Council are also assessing other Expression of Interest pilot projects around the shire. Details of this process are available on Council’s website.

We are committed to transparency and providing real and significant housing options for Byron Shire.

36. How does the Planning Proposal fit into the Residential Strategy?

Saddle Road has been identified in Residential Strategies over time including this current Council’s Preliminary Draft Residential Strategy. Byron Shire Council has a responsibility to plan for Area 17 and is acting on that responsibility.

In October 2016 Council resolved to hold a Byron Shire Housing Summit prior to adopting the Byron Shire Residential Strategy. The purpose of the Summit was to look at what could be done differently to improve the availability of housing in Byron Shire.

Shannon Burt, council’s Director Sustainable Environment and Economy compiled in a report on the summit where she recommended that further discussions with landowners be supported to establish the feasibility of the certain sites for affordable housing.

It was decided by councillors to allow an Expression of Interest process which would allow people with land and affordable housing projects to present their model and determine its feasibility or otherwise for the shire. Any identified projects would still need to go through the appropriate planning process.

The current residential strategy is as yet a preliminary draft, as opposed to a completed document. Its lack of completion has limited opportunities for housing initiatives.

Council decided to invite innovative pilot projects and consider moving ahead with some of those projects rather than wait further years for a finalised strategy due to the housing crisis facing the shire.

This Planning Proposal is raising questions around how to provide a different kind of housing project that will support ecological, social and economic sustainability for the community. Byron Shire is perfectly placed to pioneer pilot projects like these.

37. What is the due process for Planning Proposal applications?

This graphic shows the due process of Planning Proposal applications.

38. What point in the process is this Planning Proposal?

Byron Shire Council is currently assessing the Planning Proposal (Pt 2). Additional investigations are being undertaken with these further details being lodged with Council. Council is responsible for ensuring that the level and quality of detail in the planning proposal document is accurate, current and sufficient prior to forwarding to the state government for issuing a Gateway determination and subsequently detailed enough for the purposes of consulting with agencies and the general community.

According to due process, an official presentation period happens where a planning proposal goes on public exhibition at the appropriate time so that the entire community can have a say on the matter. This hasn’t happened and is still a few steps away.

We feel that our values and intentions are reflected in the Community Charter for Good Planning, and we are committed to meeting those principles.

Section 4: Byron Shire Council’s Affordable Housing Pilot Project Process

39. Are there other landowners on Saddle Road lodging Affordable Housing Expressions of Interest (EOIs)?

We are advised some 11 other Saddle Road landowners have lodged an Expression of Interest (EOI) for pilot projects as part of the invitation extended by Council on June 22nd, 2017.

40. Is Bruns Eco Village getting special treatment?

Not that we’ve noticed. There have been many proposals submitted to Council’s Affordability Pilot EOI from around the shire (including those from Saddle Ridge mentioned above), and some have already been given the green light for further investigation.

Bruns Eco Village is following the pathway that has been laid out, and this pathway involves various community consultation processes. (See graphic above)

41. Is Bruns Eco Village just jumping on the affordability bandwagon because the opening was there?

Council invited Area 17 landowners (on Saddle Road) to prepare a proposal based on delivering affordable and diverse housing in its resolution of June 2017. Bruns Eco Village responded with an offer of 100% affordable and diverse housing. Other landholders have committed to different affordable housing offers as part of the Saddle Road Planning Proposal.

Further landowners on Saddle Road and around Byron Shire have lodged Expressions of Interest proposing affordable housing pilot projects.

Affordability and diversity have been part of BEV’s DNA since conception, and well before the affordable housing pilot project process was announced. We recognise that ecological, local economic and social sustainability must go hand in hand.

Bruns Eco Village developed its Alternative Ownership Model in early 2016 (see above).

42. How will Bruns Eco Village and the other landholders in the Planning Proposal provide affordable and diverse housing?

The Alternative Ownership Model uses a Community Land Trust model where the land can’t be bought and sold and is held permanently by the community, for affordable housing. BEV will cap rents at 80% of market rates.

Currently there is an offer of affordable housing on the table that has never been proposed before:

  • Bruns Eco Village is offering to make every home in the ecovillage affordable by capping rents and using a Community Land Trust model.
  • Two landholders adjoining the Bruns Eco Village site are offering to dedicate 20% of their developable land to council for affordable housing.